The Wings Club, the premier aviation
club in the U.S., has announced that Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of The
Virgin Group of Companies, is the recipient of The Club’s 2005 Distinguished
Achievement Award. The Award, which honors “outstanding accomplishments in
the field of aviation and astronautics,” will be presented on October 28, 2005
at The Wings Club’s 63rd Annual Dinner-Dance at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in
New York City.A savvy entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson’s first foray into business took
place in 1968 when the first issue of Student Magazine went to print.
Inspired by the magazine’s success in 1970 Mr. Branson founded Virgin as a
mail order record retailer. Shortly thereafter he opened a record shop on
Oxford Street, London. During 1972 a recording studio was built and the first
Virgin artist, Mike Oldfield, recorded “Tubular Bells.” The record was
released in 1973, launching Virgin as a record label (Virgin Music was sold in
1992 to Thorn EMI). That same year Mr. Branson started up a music publishing
company and then in 1984, the award-winning Virgin Atlantic Airways and Virgin
Cargo took off. Today Virgin Atlantic is the second largest British long haul
international airline, operating flights from London to more than twenty
destinations around the world.
Over the years The Virgin Group continued to expand and today includes
international music Megastores, air travel, mobile, financial, retail, music,
internet, drinks, rail, hotels and leisure, with approximately 200 companies
in over 30 countries.
Always seeking adventure, Mr. Branson has been involved in a number of
world record-breaking attempts since 1985. In 1986 his boat, “Virgin Atlantic
Challenger II” crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the fastest ever recorded time.
This was followed a year later by the epic hot air balloon crossing of the
same ocean in “Virgin Atlantic Flyer.” This was not only the first hot-air
balloon to cross the Atlantic, but was the largest ever flown. In January
1991 Mr. Branson crossed the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Arctic Canada,
breaking all existing records. Additionally, between 1995 and 1998 Mr.
Branson along with Per Lindstrand and Steve Fossett made a number of attempts
to circumnavigate the globe by balloon. In late 1998 they made a record-
breaking flight from Morocco to Hawaii.
In addition to his own business activities, Mr. Branson is a trustee of
several charities including the Virgin Healthcare Foundation, a leading
healthcare charity that was responsible for the launch of a health education
campaign relating to AIDS in 1987. The recipient of numerous awards, in
December 1999 Mr. Branson was awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s Millennium
New Year’s Honours List for “services to entrepreneurship.”
The Wings Club’s Distinguished Achievement Award has been presented
annually since 1975. Past recipients include Astronaut Neil Armstrong,
Senator John Glenn, former President George H. W. Bush as well as eleven
former airline CEO’s including Fred Smith, Bob Crandall, Herb Kelleher, Gordon
Bethune and Sir Colin Marshall.